I've arrived at my final Les Exclusif sample, Cuir de Russie. I know there are more in the series, but I did not order them. I've wanted to try Cuir de Russie for quite some time, having read quite a lot about it over the years. I had a notion that it would wear a bit like Caron's Tabac Blonde, which I adore, and in the dry down I can detect similarities, if not in notes, certainly in spirit. However, Cuir de Russie if anything reminds me of Bandit, but without any green or chypre notes. It has that same feline snarl to it, albeit toned down a touch, in true-to-style chic Chanel fashion, but with the masterful presence of civet, it definitely has a rich, animalic edge to it. I actually find Tabac Blonde less feminine than Cuir de Russie, particularly with its smoky tobacco and hay notes, but having said that, Cuir de Russie is not overbearingly feminine, and I did not feel uncomfortable wearing it. The notes for Cuir de Russie are orange blossom, bergamot, mandarine, clary sage, iris, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, cedar, vetiver, styrax, leather, amber and vanilla. For such a complicated set of notes, I find that it opens on my skin with quite an aldehydic haze and a soft, almost velvety leather note. I don't detect any citrus, but again, dabbing rather than spraying might mute these notes. There is a significant floral undertone, but the only distinct notes on my skin are iris and ylang-ylang, which Chanel loves to use. I find that at this stage the fragrance is ever so slightly soapy, but in a good way and even buttery. There is a voluptuousness to Cuir de Russie, which I didn't think I would find in a Chanel perfume and I suspect this richness is a result of the deft use of civet, augmenting the other notes. At this stage, once the leather intensifies, I feel that spirit of Bandit emerging, but as I said, with no greenness to it at all. There is a vague skankiness to Cuir de Russie, but it is subtle and just bubbling under the surface. The leather is identifiably in the Russian Leather style, but not aggressively so and I find it quite smooth. Into the dry down Cuir de Russie wears like a skin scent and to my nose even smells like skin to an extent, sexy female flesh just slightly blushed with the heat of passion. It does become slightly smoky too. Longevity is good, although it has very muted sillage for me. I really like Cuir de Russie, but I can't help feeling that it would be so much more devastatingly sexy worn by a woman.
At the end of my Les Exclusifs sojourn, I find that overall I am probably pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fragrances I have sampled; for some reason I was expecting to feel let down. As I mentioned in a previous post, I loved Coromandel and Bois des Iles, and Cuir de Russie is a hit for me as well, although I don't feel my skin does it as much justice to it as the former two do. 28 La Pausa is good but the only one that disappointed me was 31 Rue Cambon. I know this is just my opinion and I'm sure many others would disagree with my rankings.
Image credit - taken from Grain de Musc blog